Visits in This Issue:
(Journal and tasting notes from a recent tour of the Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez wine areas. Tasting notes: each wine was scored using the requisite sight, smell, and taste impressions. Scores reflect the tasters opinions (EA, first column, MP second), and uses an alpha-oriented rating system. "n/n" indicates no notes , and "n/t" indicates not tasted. Although more extensive note-taking took place, specific descriptions are not included here.
Friday, May 16, 1997
Embracing the philosophy, "why go to work when you can drink wine," MP & I departed shortly before 6:30AM for a day in the [almost] local wine country of Santa Ynez. Only moderate traffic for a weekday morning trip up to SB County.
After brief stop along the way, arrived at Andrew Murray at 9:45, and, with the gate still closed, we headed down the road a bit to take a few pics before our scheduled 10:00 appointment. Arriving back to Murray, we found the gate now open, and followed what turned out to be Andrew's wife's pickup truck up the long driveway/road leading to the property, passing another gate, and finally to the winery itself. Pulling up to the front of the winery, we saw a couple of other cars were already there. We were greeted by Andrew who initially thought we were with the other people who had pulled up, and as I was reparking the car, MP was told that the winery wasn't receiving visitors. The mixup was caused by the fact that this other group was a group of Safeway buyers who showed up unannounced, and we were assumed to be with them. The buyers were apparently trying to persuade Murray to sell wine to the grocery chain. He politely explained to them that he hadn't any wine to sell; and then apologized to us for the misunderstanding. Apparently, the road into the Murray property, which is set back quite a bit from Foxen Cyn Rd, is a shared road that not only crosses through Zaca Mesa's property, but also leads off to a new house under construction by James Garner (yep, the James Garner). With construction crews often leaving the Hwy gate open, Andrew Murray had been receiving an unduly large amount of unexpected visitors.
Finally straightening things out, we were invited into the barrel room to sample the Murray wines. Thick with mist, and very chilly, the barrel room presented quite a contrast to what was fast becoming a 90 degree day outside. Although AM had to excuse himself now and again to help his wife with the setup for another group expected soon, we still managed to taste 7 wines -- 3 of which Andrew grabbed from barrels. The "Rose" was 1/3 each Syrah, Granache, and Mourvedre, and the L.H. Viognier was his first! The only disappointment was the Mourvedre, which smelled pretty funky, almost as though a huge bottle of vitamins had fallen into it. Maybe it'll straighten out, I dunno. Nice visit. We found AM to be very gracious and friendly, and eager to have visitors. He would just like them to make appointments. After a few purchases, out at 11:25.
Tasted at Andrew Murray:
Driving past Zaca Mesa, we headed for Bedford Thompson (from a conversation with AM, we weren't sure if they'd be open for all or part of the day). Arrived at BT at 11:43. It looked as though someone had been home at the small house/tasting room, but apparently was not so at the moment. We decided to backtrack to ZM, and try BT again later in the day. Arrived Zaca Mesa at 11:51 to a quiet room. Pouring 7 wines N/C. The only other visitor while we were there was an employee from another local winery who stopped by for a tasting. Big contrast with the usually hectic weekend visits. Usual nice wines, but nothing very memorable. They've now dropped most of their earlier production of reds (Cab a few years back; Pinot with this release) and are concentrating on Rhones and Chardonnays. Out at 12:30.
Tasted at Zaca Mesa:
Blasting down Foxen Cyn Rd toward Byron, we were quite shocked to find that Foxen Cyn Winery was apparently open for business (at least the "open" sign was on the roadside). Since they're usually just open weekends, this was a rare and welcome sight. Standing on the brakes, we pulled over in a cloud of dust for closer inspection. Strode into Foxen at 12:40. Ah, the place all to ourselves! Had a fabulous time chatting with tasting room manager and another employee about this and that. Pouring 5 wines N/C, plus we got a extra pour of the Bien Nacido Pinot. I preferred the Bien Nacido Pinot; MP the Sanford & Benedict. Too bad Foxen didn't end up on the split of the Bien Nacido Syrah as well; but, the Morehouse is a 2nd best offering. Finally left at 1:30.
Tasted at Foxen:
Arrived Byron at 1:40 to a semi-empty room (man, this weekday visiting is great!). Pouring 4 wines N/C. Chatted a bit with the staff and out at 2:15.
Tasted at Byron Winery:
Heading back toward Sanford, we stopped again at Bedford Thompson. Arrived at 2:35 to a quiet room. Previous visit (11/96) had us served by David Thompson. This time both of the proprietors, Thompson and Stephen Bedford were in attendance. It's nice to have the folks who have produced the product actually doing the pouring and chatting. Poured 5 wines N/C. Told them what a great job we felt they'd been doing, and departed at 3:00.
Tasted at Bedford Thompson Winery:
Arrived at Sanford at 3:25 to busy place. Friendly fellow pouring 6 wines, but no reds!! Like a lot of other wineries, they can sell all the Pinot they make. So, we did the tour de force of Chards. Out at 4:05, feeling like we'd been to some chi-chi bistro specializing in Chardonnay.
Tasted at Sanford Winery:
Arrived Beckmen at 4:35 to a just a pair of other tasters. We had an enlightening visit here last trip (11/96), and were looking forward to an equally good followup. On that basis, it was a little disappointing. On the other hand, we arrived at the end of a long hot day, not the best of red wine conditions, and with palates previously assaulted by Chardonnay city. I believe the fellow doing the pouring introduced himself as the assistant winemaker. He appeared obviously hot, tired, and ready to call it a day, but seemed to get his second wind as time passed. Poured 7 wines N/C. The Mourvedre was an extra pour that (like one earlier in the day at AM) seemed a bit funky, with a vitamin nose. Out at 5:00.
Tasted at Beckmen Winery:
Dinner at Hitching Post in Buellton at 5:15. Departed HP at 6:45. Arrived back home at 9:25. Fast return time of 2:41. Another good trip. Like we've said before, the worst day winetasting is better than the best day at work. Stats for the day: 7 wineries, 41 tastes.